Minimize Your Regrets

http://alternativeblastingco.com/wp-content/mu-plugins/ By the time we reach middle age (and I’m there) we’ve had the time and the living to own our share of regrets.  We all have them…regrets about things we’ve done, things we haven’t done, things we’ve said and things we haven’t said.

Most of my regrets revolve around things I’ve said to others that weren’t always kind.  I also have misgivings about times I wasn’t there for others when they could have used my support.  When experiences like that are in our past, all we can do is apologize if it’s appropriate, and learn from our mistakes.

Recently, I finished reading a book by an Australian woman named Bronnie Ware.  The book is called http://maxsdeals.co.uk/shop/?add_to_wishlist=12654 The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  Ware was a palliative nurse who cared for patients in the last weeks of their lives.  As she cared for them, they talked with her about the regrets they had regarding the way they had lived.

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In her book, Ware asserts that we can address issues in our lives now while we still have the time, so that someday we can die with both peace of mind and peace in our hearts.

According to Ware, the top or most common regret of the dying was:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Many people die with unfulfilled hopes and dreams.  Once they get older or their health fails, they realize that they have lost all hope of chasing the dreams they had when they were younger.  In my own life, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a teenager.  I lost sight of my love of writing for a few years and then because of a twist of fate and a job loss, I had the opportunity to revisit that dream.

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I admire our four children for the way they are going after their dreams.  Just this week, one of them set off for a year in the service of AmeriCorps all the way across the country in Baltimore.  Yes, we thought that perhaps she should go right from college graduation to graduate school, but she knew that because of the age limit for service, it was now or never.  So, she took a chance and is trying something new and fulfilling her heart for service.

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Another of our children started two businesses while in college and has continued to run them since he graduated.  He could find a “real” job, but he’s had the courage to see what he could accomplish on his own for the past seven years.

And finally, a third child got halfway through college and is taking a break to work and try some new things while she decides where and when she will return to school.  She is living the life that she wants on her schedule and on her terms.

I bet you are wondering about our fourth child?  He went straight through college and graduate school like his parents had hoped he would.  However, once he got his second degree, he decided to try a totally different career path from the one he had planned.  He loves his job and is having fun working with numbers every day!

I smile inside at the fact that our children have the courage to live the lives they want.  I pray that when they are all very old and look back, they will feel they have lived lives true to themselves.

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The second regret of the dying and the one that every male patient expressed to Ware was:

  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Many of these men and some of the women felt that they had missed out on having a more balanced life because they had worked so hard.  They felt they had missed out on time with their children and time with their spouse and time doing other things they enjoyed because they were so focused on earning money and getting ahead professionally.

The other part of this regret was that they had worked in careers they didn’t feel passionately about.  They had a job and perhaps great success, but they hadn’t done the kind of work they loved that made them want to get out of bed in the morning.

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The third regret of the dying was:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Some of us come from families where “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” are said regularly and sincerely.  Others, especially in the older generation, might not be so comfortable expressing how they feel.  One of the regrets of those nearing the end of their lives was that they didn’t tell people…both family and friends…how much they cared about them and how much they enjoyed having them in their lives.

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Regrets around expressing feelings also included regrets about the times they didn’t say something to right a wrong.  Perhaps there was a family estrangement and nothing was said to try to work out the problem before one of the parties passed.  People also regretted the times they didn’t speak up on behalf of another person when that person could have used some vocal support.

The fourth regret of the dying and one I have felt intensely in my own life is:

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

My best friend while I was growing up was a beautiful and incredibly kind girl named Karen.  We had so much fun together and I adored her family.  Being her friend felt as natural as breathing to me.   After we graduated from high school, I stood up with her when Karen got married and then I left for college out of state.

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We stayed in touch as best we could in the days of snail mail and corded phones with long distance charges.  Two years later, Karen played the piano at my wedding.  After that, life became so busy for both of us with husbands, school and jobs for me, and children for her.  We were on different paths and we lost touch.

Years would pass without seeing one another although we would send Christmas cards and the occasional letter.  When home computers entered our worlds, Karen and I began emailing one another from the different states where we lived.  She joined Facebook but I didn’t until recently.  Karen died from a heart-related illness two years ago and I don’t remember the last time I saw her.  I’d give anything for the chance to spend one hour with her again.

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Many of Ware’s patients got to the final weeks of their lives and wished they had given their true friends the time and effort they deserved.  Unlike family, our friends are people we’ve chosen to have in our lives.  People missed their friends when they were dying.  Like me, they wished they had not gotten so busy with their own lives that they let those golden friendships slip away.

The fifth of the top five regrets of the dying was:

  1. I wish I had let myself be happier.

This was a very common regret among Ware’s patients at the end of their lives.  People often got stuck in old habits and patterns that didn’t make them happy anymore.   They didn’t realize until their time was near, that happiness was a choice.

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Everyone has hard stuff to deal with in their lives.  We can choose to dwell on the things that are wrong or difficult, or we can focus on the positives and the blessings.  We have the freedom to live in the moment and to decide how we think.  Each new day brings its own gifts if we choose to recognize them.

Life is short.  Time on this Earth is not an infinite resource.  What are your greatest regrets and what are you going to do about them while you still can?

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8 thoughts on “Minimize Your Regrets”

  1. So well written …. and what a wonderful reminder. My biggest regret is yelling at my children when they were young. I haven’t raised my voice in over twenty years, but I learned that lesson too late for my own little ones. My second biggest regret is not staying in touch with loved ones and dear friends from school days. Facebook gives us all a second chance …. I love re-connecting online! Thanks for another superb blog, Janet!

  2. After reading through your blog, it makes me think of my own regrets and writing them down. Definitely spending more time with family would be on my list. My parents are getting older and I regret now that we stay too busy in our daily lives to see them as much as I’d like. I’m working on that! Thanks Janet!

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